New York Giants 12 – Kansas City Chiefs 9
To this point of the 2017 season, there have been stretches where the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to be one of the top teams in the league with the Giants being one of the bottom feeders. However, KC has been faltering as of late, coming to East Rutherford with just 1 win since October 9. The winds were gusting and Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid knows that can help bring any match-up closer together.
With Eli Apple inactive due to a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell and Janoris Jenkins were the starters at cornerback. In addition, B.J. Goodson missed another game and the undrafted rookie Calvin Munson started in his place. The first quarter flew by, as both teams were keeping the clock moving via the run game and short passing. The Giants, in unorthodox fashion, showed aggression via trick plays on their first drive, one of which didn’t work out. They successfully ran a fake punt with Nat Berhe taking the direct snap and running up the middle. A few plays later, Shane Vereen took a toss to the outside that ended up being a halfback option pass. He had Evan Engram open, but the throw was a tad late and Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen shot over for the interception near the end zone.
On the next possession, KC was starting to piece together another drive before a shovel pass to tight end Travis Kelce, a play that has been working well for them all year, brought Kelce right into the target of Jason Pierre Paul. An explosive hit and all of the sudden the ball popped into the air right into the waiting arms of Damon Harrison. Yes, 355-pound Damon Harrison. The Giants marched into the end zone just 7 plays later via an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard run, NYG’s 3rd rushing touchdown of the year. Kicker Aldrick Rosas missed the ensuing extra point thanks to one of the infamous gusts of wind the Meadowlands will occasionally provide.
KC then put together a 15-play drive that swallowed over 9 minutes of game clock. It resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Harrison Butker. The rest of the first half was uneventful, as we saw a combined three 3-and-outs. It was 6-3 as the third quarter began despite NYG having only totaled 93 total net yards to that point.
After the teams traded punts again, NYG put together a couple of nice plays and were knocking on the door for more points. On 3rd-and-7 from the KC 31-yard line, a Manning to Evan Engram pass that landed them at the 3-yard line was called back because of an offensive pass interference. Because of the wind, two plays later NYG had to go for it on 4th-and-9 from the 33, but the infamous short pass play that would have left Engram with no chance of reaching the first down marker fell to the ground and KC took over.
In a blink, at the beginning of the 4th quarter, KC was on the NYG 16-yard line with 1st-and-10 to go. They could only gain 3 more yards and had to settle for another 31-yard field goal, courtesy of Butker. The score was now tied at 6 with the NYG offense still sputtering.
After trading another pair of 3-and-outs again, NYG took a drive that started on their own 4-yard line and approached midfield with 1st down. A 9-yard gain was called back due to a holding penalty by Engram and a couple plays later John Jerry pushed them back even further with an unnecessary roughness penalty. The Giants were forced to punt the ball back to KC and the momentum was shifting.
On 1st-and-10 from their own 40, Andy Reid went into his own bag of tricks. Travis Kelce, one of the best overall athletes in the game and a former quarterback, received the ball and instead of darting downfield, launched a deep pass to Demarcus Robinson. The hesitation he initially showed gave Landon Collins enough time to reach his point and he came down with the ball on the NYG 14-yard line.
The Giants eventually punted the ball back to KC, but for the second straight possession, NYG intercepted KC, this time it was Alex Smith who threw the ball and Janoris Jenkins who came down with it. His 17-yard return set NYG up 1st-and-10 on the KC 23-yard line. The Giants did take one shot at the end zone, but they were forced into taking the simple 3 points via a 26-yard field goal by Rosas. Giants led 9-6 with under 2 minutes left.
The Giants appeared to have the game in the bag after Jenkins’s second interception in as many drives, but a pass interference penalty called it off. Alex Smith then took over the game, marching the Chiefs down the field with big-time throws and scrambling ability. His last-ditch effort to end the game via a rushng TD was cancelled by a physical downhill tackle by Landon Collins. KC tied the game with a second remaining, overtime was next.
KC put together a couple of quality plays, but a holding penalty set them back and they had to punt the ball to Eli Manning and the Giants. They put together a solid drive mixed with the run and the pass. On 4th-and-5 from the 36-yard line, Ben McAdoo had a tough decision to make. Let the strong-legged kicker Rosas go for the game-winner from 53? Or try to get a first down in a situation that has been beating them up all year, badly. He opted to put the ball in Manning’s hands and it resulted in a 34-yard gain down the left sideline. There, Roger Lewis made the catch of the year for NYG. After being interfered with by KC corner Phillip Gaines, he was laying on the ground but still managed to bring the ball in. The pass interference was declined and two plays later Rosas hit the first game-winner of his career from 23 yards. Giants win, 12-9.
- Eli Manning: 19/35 – 205 yards. 0 TD/0 INT. While Alex Smith has had the better season statistically, the difference was apparent between him and Manning when it came to dealing with the wind. Smith looked very uncomfortable for the majority of the game while Manning’s experience in these situations rose to the occasion. He was the victim of 6 drops in this game, as well. Manning had 148 yards in the second half.
- Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/74 yards – 1 TD – 2 rec/14 yards. Darkwa and this running game continue to improve each and every week. He isn’t a sexy back, but his constant ability to push the pile and fall forward doesn’t go unnoticed. His glaring issues that have been hurting this team over and over, however, are the drops. He had 2 more in this game.
- Wayne Gallman: 6 att/19 yards – 1 rec 3 yards. Gallman had a drop of his own on a play that could have netted a lot of yards. He is the unofficial change of pace back who brings a different level of speed and explosion. One of these weeks he is going to break off a long touchdown, but he has to get and hold onto that ball.
- Roger Lewis: 3 rec/55 yards. Lewis was relatively quiet until late in the game, but he responded with the catch of the year for NYG. The opportunity he has right now may never come again, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to late-game heroics. Was it a fluke? Right place, right time? There were a lot of teams drawn to this kid as an UDFA out of Bowling Green a couple years ago. The ball skills were a + park on everyone’s scouting report and his route running has improved mightily. I would be surprised if we didn’t see a slight uptick in his targets, which is hovering around 3 per game.
- Tavarres King: 3 rec/48 yards. King has the veteran experience, intelligence, and toughness that Manning likes to work with. My college scouting report on him raved about his route running and it is something I see with him today. Very smooth, efficient mover and he can make the tough catch. His lack of physical presence and strength does limit him against certain coverages and situations, however.
- Travis Rudolph: 3 rec/34 yards: The most targeted receiver Sunday, Rudolph played a career-high 27 snaps. He displayed what we already know about him – reliable hands, ball skills, and route running. But he really struggles to get himself open against quality man coverage.
- Evan Engram: 1 rec/9 yards. Engram is the feature pass catcher in this offense. He was targeted 6 times but only came down with the ball once. He dropped 2 passes and also was responsible for 2 penalties. As a blocker, he graded out at the “average” mark. However, he got a lot of movement on Darkwa’s touchdown run.
- Rhett Ellison: 1 rec/7 yards. Ellison has really helped this running game buckle down and control the point-of-attack. His impact is quiet in the box score, but don’t overlook his importance.
- Tackles: I won’t overreact to one start, especially at home, but the performance Chad Wheeler put together in his first NFL start at right tackle was enough to excite anyone. He was borderline flawless and put together one of the top 5 grades overall of all the OLs on this team in 2017. It was the best RT grade I have on the year, including the ones Justin Pugh started. One game isn’t enough to make any strong statements, but he did everything right. His confidence and decision-making were on a different level from what we saw in preseason and his limited regular-season snaps. He got plenty of movement on guys much bigger and stronger than him with almost perfect technique and timing. Ereck Flowers had another quiet game, in a good way. He stayed on the hottest streak of his career and is proving some doubters wrong. If this were a winning team, he would be getting a ton of positive attention. There are still significant holes here, but he has improved.
- Interior: D.J. Fluker, if you really zero in on him, has to be someone everyone admires. The guy plays his tail off and brings the blue collar, overly physical approach to the line that we all want to see here. Once he started at right guard, this OL as a whole started to perform better in the run game. His presence and ability to move defenders has been very impactful. John Jerry and Brett Jones shared the lowest grades along the OL this week, but even they still graded out on the average mark. Their pass blocking leaves a lot to be desired, especially on blitzes.
- Ends: Jason Pierre-Paul had arguably the most physical hit of the day that jarred the ball loose out of Travis Kelce’s hands and into the arms of Damon Harrison. From a dead stop position, he launched himself into Kelce and sent the 260-pounder parallel to the ground. It was a hit that maybe 5 players in the NFL could make. I see plays like those and a few others where he tracks the ball carrier down on the back side and wonder why we don’t see him just dominate, flat out dominate. He had a very quiet game as a pass rusher. Olivier Vernon had one of his more disruptive games of the year, finishing with 3 QB pressures despite only playing 83% of the snaps due to a minor shoulder injury.
- Tackles: It was good to see Damon Harrison out there after being carted off the field a week ago, although his snaps were a tad limited. He continues to be the best player on this defense, with both visible and hidden benefits. After a quiet game in San Francisco, Dalvin Tomlinson responded with an active game, finishing with 6 tackles. He certainly isn’t playing like a rookie. NYG has a good one here.
- With B.J. Goodson out again, Calvin Munson got the start. The undrafted rookie out of San Diego State finished with a career-high 12 tackles. He showed a good first step and good angles towards the action. The biggest plus with him, zero missed tackles.
- Devon Kennard recorded another sack, his 2nd of the season. His versatility shines every week and I think he is one of the most underrated weapons on this defense who can really fit into any scheme. He has limitations, but he gets the job done. Jonathan Casillas wasn’t very active, as he is still struggling to find the consistency snap to snap when it comes to making quick reads and reactions. He is often late to the party.
- After being suspended 2 weeks ago, and one of the worst performances of his career last week in San Francisco, Janoris Jenkins came out and showed why he can rightfully be considered a top-10, maybe even top-5 CB in this league. He had a pass break up and a clutch interception that set the Giants up to take a 4th-quarter lead. His second interception was called back because of a penalty, but even that had to be admired because of the ball skills he displayed.
- With Eli Apple sitting out because of a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell got the start. The 4th-year veteran seems to be getting more comfortable in the system and his tools are something I always look for in NFL cornerbacks. He has size, he plays physical, and his hips can turn with ease. The confidence in his game has been taken to another level and I expect to see more and more improvement from here on out.
- Landon Collins led the team with 14 tackles. He has several big hits and a few third down stops that helped the Giants maintain field position in this low-scoring affair. Collins played his heart out with plus hustle grades throughout the entire game. His interception on the Kelce option-pass was a great reaction and even better read. He wasn’t fooled one bit. Solid game for Darian Thompson but the note that keeps popping up next to his name is a lack of presence and a lack of range. Watching the all-22 tape, it is apparent to me that his lack of range is a big part of the reason why this defense struggles defending the pass in the middle of the field.
- Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 – made 26 and 23. Missed 1 extra point. Rosas has made a habit of missing field goal attempts. His two this week went through the uprights, albeit they were very short. They were in clutch situations though. His missed extra point was a result of a gust of wind that would have knocked anyone’s kick flat.
- Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 45.3 avg. It was a busy day for Wing and his 42.5 net was a season high. Very good game for him punting to one of the most dangerous PRs in the league.
- RT Chad Wheeler, S Landon Collins, WR Roger Lewis
- OG John Jerry, TE Evan Engram, LB Jonathan Casillas
3 THOUGHTS ON KC
- This is why you don’t crown a team early in the year. After a 5-0 start including wins over NE and PHI, the Chiefs looked unstoppable on both sides of the ball. Some in the media start using the word Super Bowl but since then, they are 1-4. What happened? This is the NFL, that’s what happened. This happens every year and the overreactions regarding early wins and losses make several people look silly by season’s end. The Chiefs are not as bad as what they have showed recently, and I still expect them to be one of 3-4 teams in the AFC Championship run.
- Travis Kelce is the best athlete in the NFL, all things considered. I have never seen a tight end that big and strong move that fast and quick. His ball skills are improving, as are his routes and blocking. I think it is safe to say he is the best tight end in the game. And I am scouting a tight end from a small school right now that reminds me exactly of him.
- What does this team need to right the ship? Early in the year they were controlling the point-of-attack and running the ball down the defense’s throat. They stuck with the run time and time again. Andy Reid has done this in the past…and that is rely on the pass too much when a team is down. The instant Hunt’s carries went into the single digits, this team’s tailspin began. Easy solution if you ask me. Get Hunt the ball more often, then everything else will open up.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- As I have been saying, the discussion of McAdoo’s job is the easy conversation to bring up. But it doesn’t need to be a weekly thing. Let this thing play out the rest of the year, talk about all the stuff in January. Until then I know it can be tough to watch a losing team, but there are several players to watch and evaluate for next year. Top one being Chad Wheeler.
- Tip of the cap to Janoris Jenkins and the intensity he played with. Either he looked in the mirror and decided to man up, or someone got in his ear. Jenkins was flying around putting his body on the line like we saw in the first three weeks. Maybe that team meeting where they watched the low-effort plays stuck it to him and if that is the case, good job by McAdoo. There have been a handful of players that have showed notable differences in effort-output, hopefully Eli Apple is next.
- The two starting defensive ends on this team showed so much promise before the season and even though they flash here and there, they simply aren’t good enough. The 4-man pass rush is almost vital to defensive success in the NFL now, and the production coming from these two spots needs to be better. Both are on the fragile side, both are on the inconsistent side. It is a bad combination for the long term future and if they don’t flash more, DE may be at or near the top of their draft needs in the spring.